Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ghosts on Muni

I see ghosts on Muni sometimes. Or maybe it's more apt to say, I see ghosts while I'm on Muni.

It's nostalgia more than anything else. Missing friends who've moved, wistfully remembering places I've wanted to share with other far-flung loved ones.

The man who looks familiar from the back. His smile that reminds me of R., at least the R. in the faded photo tucked into the old journal bought from an estate sale out by City College.

The ghosts of long-shuttered stores and restaurants, the memories that come with them.

The Daily Dose on Irving Street. Writing postcards and drinking iced tea. The man who worked there, with his short, fat fingers.

Renting videos from Leather Tongue or Naked Eye or Into Video.

Hanging out in Mission Grounds drinking coffee. Snapping photos.

Writing group meetings at Cafe Macondo (now Gestalt), when I was only just getting to know the rest of the group. And even before, when the cafe had a different name I can't remember any more.

La Casa de Libros on Valencia. Buying Mexican detective novels.
Going to shows at the Covered Wagon. Walking back up to Market Street in the dead of night to catch the 7-Haight.

Elliott at the Fillmore my first spring in town. Keeping a set list for F.
Later, listening to an NPR obituary for him while commuting home on the 22, trying not to cry.

The briefest memory of a night on the N Judah with M. and Maria and Jason, coming home in the fog from a house party near Ocean Beach. Who I was then. Who I am now, not much different, just older, maybe less likely to go to a stranger's home so far away from my own.

Worrying. Worrying when I don't see the Alien donut man as often as I'd like, worrying that I haven't seen several other elderly commuters recently.

Seeing people who never existed except in my fiction: Emiliano on his skateboard down on 16th and Vermont. Another character clutching the strap on a crowded J-Church, struggling to stay upright.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bus Report #609

This morning when I left the house it was raining out, the kind of dewy spray that hits you from every direction so that you are damp all over.
The bus was about to pass my stop and I was still across the street, but the driver, one of the 38 Geary morning regulars, pulled over and waited for me to race across the street and get on.
The bus was empty except for three of us quietly letting the start and stop motion of the bus lull us into, if not sleep, a feeling of clammy warmth, and calm.

I got out at Fillmore and waited under the overhang for the 22.
A man wandered up to the stop, a tall, hefty man with bright blue sneakers. He set down a torn plastic bag and a leather zip up file case on the bench near where I was standing. He paced the length of the stop, talking to himself, not unusual for San Francisco, not even unusual for this bus stop (in fact, another whacked-out regular, in grey sweats and no shoes, walked by and yelled something at the big guy, before walking out into traffic).
The big guy picked tape off of the glass installation behind us. He mumbled something else, then crouched down to see if the bus was coming.
"It's right here," he said, looking directly at me.
I nodded, said thanks.
When the bus pulled up we all got in. I sat behind a man who looked like Groucho Marx, glasses, nose, mustache, the whole thing.
I watched the big guy, who sat a couple rows ahead of me.
He took two crumpled pieces of paper out of his plastic bag and smoothed them on his knee. He still had the bits of tape he had peeled off of the glass, and now he stuck the tape on the edges of the papers.
I didn't pay him any more attention until he got out at Hayes, hesitating in the step well for a moment before exiting the bus.
He had hung up his papers on either side of the step well: two faded, overly copied ads for facial plastic surgery, each featuring a woman in profile, her shoulders bare, her eyes almost invisible after so many copies.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bus Report #608

Sunday, race day, but I planned to stay as far away from the action as possible.
I had errands to run down near Polk Street so I walked out to California to catch the 1 California.
The bus was already full when I got on - packed with costumed people heading away from the beach.
Three butterflies, a graduate, some people dressed in knee socks and sweatbands.
The bus smelled, too, like a sweaty locker room.
I stood in the back next to another trio of runners, their numbers still pinned to their T-shirts.
By Laguna, the bus was even more packed, and a kid who was old enough to know better was kicking me, his mother not doing anything to stop him.
I escaped at Van Ness.

Later, on the way home:
Waited for the 2 Clement at Sutter and Polk. A man sat in the bus shelter, waving his cane at any cab that passed by.
"You need a cab?" I asked him, stepping into the street.
"They're not stopping," he said. "If you can get one, I'd be grateful."
I can almost always get a cab - not sure if it's luck, a hidden skill, or just that I'm a woman. I confidently raised my arm and tried to hail one of four cabs idling at the light.
The light changed, and they all sped past, ignoring me, ignoring the man with the cane.
"I don't understand it," he said, echoing my thoughts. "I'm from New York originally and there, you step off the curb and there are five cabs right there."
"I know, it's weird," I said. "I'll keep trying until the bus comes, but I see it up the hill so it'll be here in a minute."
"Maybe I'll just take that," said the man with the cane.
When the bus arrived, I waited for the man and several elderly ladies to get on, then I got on and moved to the back of the bus.
The man with the cane nodded at me from his seat in the front of the bus. "Thanks for trying," he said.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bus Report #607

This morning I was running about ten minutes late for the bus, but I wasn't worried.
At Fillmore I waited for the bus by myself.
A wild-eyed man in a white and gold sweatshirt walked by. He tried to catch my eye, said, "Hey, gorgeous. You're a gorgeous girl. Smile for me, gorgeous." I didn't respond, burrowed further into my jacket, shoved my fists into my pockets.
He walked away.
The 22 was in sight up the block. It came zooming around a garbage truck that was idling at the curb.
It was my favorite early morning driver. He smiled and flung the door open and leaned out of his seat. "Good morning, darlin'," he said.
I smiled back. "Good morning to you, too, sir," I said.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bus Report #606

Yesterday morning the early 22 Fillmore bus must not have ever shown up.
I got to the stop and waited with the woman who always stands too close to me, the 80's woman (puffy jacket, faded acid washed jeans, red Reebok high tops, fake tan), and a couple of elderly ladies with hand carts.
A crazy man walked down the center of Fillmore Street with a vacuum cleaner in his right hand and a bunch of half-deflated balloons. "You wanna buy a balloon?" He asked, leering at us, stepping into a lane of traffic and getting honked at by a couple of cars.
We didn't want to buy anything he was selling.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Bus Report #605

Friday afternoon, waiting for the 2 Clement.
A woman I've often chatted with in the bus stop is waiting, too, carrying a beautiful bouquet of miniature roses.
"Those are very pretty," I tell her.
"Thank you," she says. Then, "You're the lady who works beyond me, aren't you?"
It takes me a moment to figure out what this means, then I remember we've talked before about how she works on Harrison and my office is a few stops past hers.
"Yes," I tell her. "That's right."
The bus comes and we get on. She snags a seat in the front and I move to the back of the bus, where I sit on the long bench that some older 2 Clement coaches have. When the bus stops short, I fly across the bench, but it's okay, because no one else is sitting there.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Bus Report #604

On my way home, sitting next to a large woman in a robin's egg blue terry cloth track suit. She shifts in her seat, asks me if I'm all right. "Fine, thanks," I tell her.

In front of the Kilowatt, a former regular who I haven't seen in so many years I can't remember what his nickname is.

Back in the neighborhood the alien donut man sits perfectly still and upright in his usual seat in the donut shop. Seeing me, he lifts his hand in a delicate wave and dips his head ever so slightly.

I dash across the street to Haig's, where the proprietor says, "I was willing you to come in, I saw you running across the street and tried to steer you in here."
I grin and say, "Of course I was coming in here."
He sells me a tiny piece of feta cheese for 95 cents. I carry it, wrapped in paper, between my thumb and forefinger as I walk home.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bus Report #603

Another 22 Fillmore morning commute.

The limping boy on his skateboard, racing down Fillmore to catch the bus at Haight. He has a thermos in his rear pocket and a tell-tale red-capped bottle of coffee creamer in a front pocket. He catches the bus and limps to a seat in the back.

On 16th between Guerrero an Valencia, the smell of freshly mowed grass, where there is no grass, and very few street trees in sight.

Thank you San Francisco, for 19 Years! Banner hung out front the soon-to-be closing Ti Couz.